Are swimming pools coronavirus safe?

 

There's nothing more refreshing than a dip at your local pool but the question many Australians are asking amid a global coronavirus outbreak, is how safe is it?

The issue was recently raised with Dr Norman Swan who told the ABC, as far as he was concerned steering clear of public pools was the best option.

News.com.au took the matter to Swim Australia to ask if swimming in chlorinated water was possible, given chlorine is understood to prevent the spread of germs.

According to Gary Toner, Executive Officer, Swim Australia, all public pools undergo a stringent testing process by government officials to ensure they regularly meet requirements.

"Most would be able to sanitise their pools for the removal of any type of virus," he said.

Mr Toner added the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated there is no evidence the virus can survive in a properly chlorinated and filtered pool.

"There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs," reads a statement on CDC's site.

"Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19."

Two major swimming facilities in Australia have closed their doors temporarily amid virus fears. Picture: Istock
Two major swimming facilities in Australia have closed their doors temporarily amid virus fears. Picture: Istock

According to Dr Swan, pool chlorination was found to have effectively killed SARS. However, he outlined concerns there might not be enough chlorine in pool water to neutralise COVID-19 and there was the problem it may be diluted in some cases.

In response to this, Mr Toner said: "COVID-19 is similar to SARS, in that SARS did not survive in a properly sanitised environment."

In some states, larger pool venues have issued notices to patrons of closure, however, this is more to do with social distancing rather than problems of swimming in pool water itself.

A recent Facebook announcement by Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre advises: "The Aquatic Centre will be close to Swim School, Health Club & General Entry Patrons from Monday March 16 2020, until further notice as a result of the Commonwealth Government decision on public gatherings."

Melbourne City Baths also posted a notice today advising of temporary closure, citing a "precautionary measure to slow the spread of the virus".

Mr Toner said it made sense that Sydney Olympic Pool was closing as it had thousands of people using the facility, and not just to swim.

"People use the gym, they have meetings. The pool is following government recommendations which are recommending limits on organised gatherings of 500 people or more."

While pool closures are affecting patrons, facilities like Sydney’s Olympic Pool continues to allow its high performance program training access.
While pool closures are affecting patrons, facilities like Sydney’s Olympic Pool continues to allow its high performance program training access.

While the facility is closed to the public, Sydney Olympic Pool continues to allow its high-performance program to train at the pool.

Mr Toner's comments were backed by Brendon Ward, Chief Executive, Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.

Mr Ward said it is less about the pool and the chlorine and more about the sheer volume of people that are attending the facility.

"The other thing we have been really clear on with our swim schools is the need for people who are not feeling well is to stay at home and not go to the classes."

 

 

 

Mr Ward and Mr Toner both agree people need to take responsibility in this regard and stay away to avoid potentially infecting others.

Swim schools around Australia have been calling to ask Mr Ward whether or not to close in light of the current situation.

"The consensus and the direction we have been providing is that a swim school is akin to a school and the same sorts of things should apply.

"We are aware that if schools have had positive cases that they have closed down, the same thing would apply with a swim school.

"They would go through a complete cleansing process, make sure all their staff were tested; all the things a school would do are the same things a swim school should do."



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